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The Invisible Circus (2001)
Beautiful portrayals of fascinating characters
The plot of this film is not complicated. A very attractive young girl goes to Europe in search of the reasons for her older sister's suicide ten years earlier. There she meets up with her sister's former boyfriend and together they travel to all the places her sister went, and gradually the reasons become clear.
But what makes this film so special, and soar above the limited plot, are the beautiful portrayals of the characters. Although the older sister's boyfriend is a drop-out hippie, he has noble ideals, moral standards and incredible strengths. And although the older sister, who we see in flashbacks, shares these ideals, she doesn't have a sense of limitation or balance, of how much is too much. And although the younger girl is fiercely loyal to her sister's memory, she gradually finds the strength to face the fact that her sister was only a normal girl, after all.
The most special moment in the film is when the young girl and the sister's boyfriend finally stop fighting their attraction to each other. I can't recall ever seeing more beautiful, touching, romantic tenderness in lovemaking in a film!
In all these ways this is a truly beautiful film, a film to be treasured, and to be seen again and again. 9 out of 10.
The High Cost of Loving (1958)
A remarkable piece of fluff
Although this film is a little light-hearted comedy, it is well worth seeing, for many remarkable features. One is the sheer talent of everyone involved!
Mel Ferrer, who directed and acted as its main star, has far more legendary talent in both areas than this film shows. Gena Rowlands is a fabulous actress and although this is her first film, you can already see the fine acting talent she was about to become.
Rather fascinating to see is Richard Deacon, who has played in so many films and sitcoms I've lost count, in the role of the obstetrician, and Nancy Kulp, who was deeply loved as the gawky bank secretary in "The Beverley Hillbillies", and Ed Platt, who was legendary as "the Chief" in "Get Smart".
The story itself revolves around a misunderstanding. Jim Fry, played by Ferrer, believes that he is about to get the sack, when in fact he is actually about to be promoted. A series of events worsens his fears with each passing day, and he very nearly causes a catastrophe. Although this film is obviously limited in its scope and storyline, seeing all these wonderful and deeply loved actors all together in this one film transforms this little piece of fluff into a genuinely remarkable experience, which no lover of films and TV sitcoms should miss!
The best parts of the film, in my opinion, occur in the parts of the film when Ferrer and Rowlands are together. They play a very sweet couple who, after nine years of marriage, have their morning routine worked out so well it's a symphony of timing and choreography. Several other subsequent films have tried to mirror this routine but no-one has yet achieved the perfection of this original one.
This film gets a thoroughly deserved 9 out of 10 from me. It doesn't get a higher score only because of the limitations in its scope.
High Art (1998)
A film about high art that is high art itself!
Syd, the female Assistant Editor of an Art Photography magazine called "Frame", meets Lucy Berliner, a great photographer who dropped out of the public eye ten years ago, and is now living in a drug-addicted world of low-life "friends" who walk around half-conscious in a zombie-like drug-induced stupor, and occasionally stop breathing altogether.
The atmosphere of this depressive world is conveyed so perfectly it's almost palpable. The acting and directing are perfection. Syd begins to lead Lucy into a world of drug-free sobriety, and Lucy leads Syd into her world of beautiful, tender lesbian love, a world of mutual respect and sensitivity, and again, this world is so perfectly conveyed you can feel it surrounding you as you are drawn into this hauntingly realistic film.
You can tell they're just right for each other. They both outgrow their previous rather dysfunctional relationships and find themselves falling in love. But will Lucy slide back into her no-hope world of wheedling, pathetic friends? Or will she overcome the pull of their need for her, and find the courage and strength to walk away?
Either way, you're going to want to buy a copy of this video, and treasure it among your collection of great works of art. I can't think of a single reason why this film should be given less than ten out of ten. By anybody.
Essential viewing, because it stars the world's most beautiful female.
I have to give this film a ten out of ten, even though it does have some weaknesses, because it is the main early film of the world's most beautiful young lady, Eva Ionesco. Even though it was made in 1977, it is still the most sought-after film on the internet.
There is a heavily-censored version available, with eleven minutes of the most beautiful parts chopped out. I advise against watching this version, as it spoils the film badly.
Censoring this film is like wiping the smile off the Mona Lisa! Find the uncensored version. If there are laws in your area which prevent you from watching the full film, get those ridiculous laws changed! It will be worth your while.
As well as Eva, it has some very beautiful music, beautiful cinematography, and Lara Wendel is also beautiful. On the negative side, the story-line, of adolescents' cruelty to one another, may not be to everyone's liking, and, at the time of writing, no-one has yet sub-titled the film in English.
Nevertheless it is such a rare and beautiful film, it thoroughly deserves to be at the very top of your "Must-See" list. The full version is a real treasure. You're going to want to buy this one and watch it over and over again.
Easter Parade (1948)
A classic example of those old 40's musicals
Don't you just love those old 40's musicals? Easter Parade is certainly one of the best, with Fred Astaire doing his amazing flashy but precise dancing, Judy Garland using her legendary voice to sing right from her heart into yours, and Ann Miller doing her own unique style of dancing and tapping while belting out great songs. And of course, everybody in the film uses any excuse to sing yet another song, usually dancing to it as well.
One of the special sequences has Fred Astaire dancing in slow motion while the rest of the cast dance at normal speed behind him! Sure, we can do that these days with computers, but remember this film was made in 1948!!
Of course there's the usual plot - Boy meets girl, they fall in love, have a misunderstanding, but get together again just in time for the big finishing number. That used to really get the audiences in, in those days, and they repeated that theme in every musical that ever was.
Any weak spots? Several of the film's routines seem a little amateurish by today's standards. For example, the waiter tossing his invisible salad just to do a bit of clowning seems a little contrived. Also, the film is supposedly set in 1912, so all the 1948 fashions and hairstyles are completely anachronistic - but what does that matter, after all, it's just an enjoyable romp.
I've given this film eight out of ten, but if I could just vote on Judy Garland's singing and Fred Astaire's dancing, I'd certainly give them ten out of ten. This is definitely a "must-see" film, just for those two incredible talents!
Billy Liar (1963)
A great film to become completely absorbed in.
What makes this little black and white film so absorbing? As I was watching it on late-night TV, I found myself on the edge of my seat, gripping the arms of my chair, trying not to yell at the main character, Billy Fisher, near the end of the film. How absorbed can you be?
The dialogue, the acting, and the storyline was so realistic and natural that I had completely forgotten that I was watching a film. Years later on the next viewing I had thought it wouldn't suck me in again, especially since I knew the ending, but I was wrong. In fact I was able to appreciate it all the more on the second viewing.
Tom Courtenay plays Billy Fisher, who is an immature, irresponsible young man living in a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy world, and invents implausible stories to attempt to hide his escapades, but his lies keep backfiring on him.
His life is rapidly falling apart. He is supposed to mail out calendars from his employers to their clients, but he doesn't mail them, and keeps the postage money. He even manages to con two girls into becoming engaged to him, and that explodes into a catfight over him when they find out. His grandmother is dying, his father is continually angry at him, and everything he does just makes matters worse.
Fortunately, he meets Liz, (played by Julie Christie, who is the best thing in this great movie). She is sweet, beautiful, and understands him completely because of her own need to escape, which she does by travelling around the country.
He has the opportunity to get away from all the trouble he's in and go to London, and make a fresh start with Liz who is so perfect for him. But can he change? Can he summon the courage to break free of the messy but secure life he knows and face the unknown? Will he recognise that Liz is the best thing that could ever happen to him?
I'm not going to tell you, because that would spoil the film, but, whichever way he decides, any film that has you on the edge of your seat, yelling "Go with her! Don't miss this opportunity! Go! Go!" you know it's a truly wonderful and realistic film!
A thrilling spy story, interwoven with a beautiful love story.
Enigma is a computer part which scrambles Russian messages, so that America can't understand them. They can only be read by the intended recipient. The Americans know that the Russians are going to transmit a message revealing the plans of five political assassinations they want to carry out.
So they send in former defector Holbeck (Martin Sheen) to grab the scrambler and substitute a false part, so they'll be able to decode the message, and block the assassination attempts.
However, as we listen in on the Americans heads of the spy organisation, we find that they already have the scrambler, and they want Holbeck to try to steal Enigma, only to convince the Russians that they don't already have it. They don't expect Holbeck to succeed. That way the Russians, who had stopped transmitting with Enigma, just in case, will begin transmitting again.
Enigma is in the computer in the office of Dimitri Vasilikov. Somehow Holbeck must gain access, and in order to do that, he must find out when Vasilikov will be out. He sends in his former girlfriend Karen (Brigitte Fossey) to seduce Vasilikov, so that she can look through his papers and find out his scheduled movements. Karen is glad to do it, as they tortured her father, a university professor, to death.
Because we know that it's better for the Americans if Holbeck fails, the movie becomes even more intense as a spy thriller. We find ourselves hoping he can survive against the odds, especially as he uses ingenious methods to beat the Russians at every turn.
But what's this? Are Karen and Vasilikov falling in love? Will Holbeck win Karen back, or will she actually end up with Vasilikov? The romantic twist lifts this spy thriller, already worthy of a ten, even higher, for its originality. The writing, the direction, and the acting all combine to make this new and fascinating twist a compellingly realistic one.
You find yourself at the edge of your seat, gripping your armchair, not only for the excitement of the spy story but for the intensely beautiful romantic love story as well. The two themes are interwoven perfectly, right up to the end. You really want both sides to win. So who does win, in the end? You'll have to see the movie and find out, won't you!
Toy Story 2 (1999)
An adventure cartoon that's deeply moving, with stunning graphics!
Having kids is a great excuse to see this film. You'd probably be a bit self-conscious if you went to see it on your own, wouldn't you! Yet, my advice is if you can't borrow some kids, and don't have your own, go see it anyway, on the big screen. Never mind your age!
It's a truly brilliant, deeply moving film, with jaw-dropping graphics. It's even better than Toy Story 1, and that's saying something! Take the whole family!
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
A brilliant masterwork of gothic fantasy
The cinematography in this film is the best I've seen in a movie. Every scene is a gothic work of art, and it's worth seeing just for that alone. It also features the brilliant and charismatic actors Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, and a fantastic gothic score by master musician Danny Elfman. Put it on your "Must See" list!
I have to give this film a ten out of ten because it thoroughly deserves it. Personally, I would have preferred Depp to have played his role seriously, rather than as a parody, but because I know others will enjoy it all the more for that, and because the film is so perfect in other ways, it would not be fair for me to reduce it from its ten points just for that one personal preference.
For those who don't already know, the story involves a headless horseman who has risen from the dead, and rides through the countryside wielding a sword and cutting off other people's heads, in revenge for losing his own. In this version of the story, there are more details than the other film versions, giving the story a more interesting plot.
The original story was a poem by Washington Irving (1783-1859) called "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Some scholars believe that the poem was based on a story by Karl Musäus (1735-1787), a German academic writer, who was among the first to collect and write down German folktales. If Irving didn't get the idea from the German folktale, the similarity is remarkable.
Although heads are cut off, in gory detail, please don't be put off from seeing the film because of that. It's done more like a nightmare fantasy, rather than realistically, so every teenager and adult would be able to watch it without difficulty, though it's certainly not for children. I would strongly urge everyone to see this wonderful film.
A disturbing film yet compulsive to watch.
Eight Millimetre is a very disturbing film, yet a very well made film as well. It's the sort of film that everyone really should see, but no-one would blame you if you didn't! The film makes you wonder "How on earth did the censor let them get away with that!", yet, in its own way, its a very strong argument against censorship, because the disturbing turns the story takes are what make the film such a unique and realistic portrayal of a very bad part of life.
Nicholas Cage plays a private investigator who is called upon to investigate a snuff film, which was found in a safe after a wealthy man's death. The question his widow wants to know is - is the man she adored and to whom she was married for forty-five years really the distinguished gentleman she has always believed him to be, or was he a mentally-disturbed pervert who gets kicks out of watching innocent young girls being killed? And, worse still, did he pay for the girl to be killed on film, for his pleasure, when there were no other snuff films available?
In order to find out, the investigator has to get down into the gutter of life, and search through the worst and most perverted porno manufacturing networks he can find. The girl went missing six years ago, and the police haven't got a clue, but there are clues on the film, such as a tattoo on the hand of the masked killer, and a fleeting image of a man in the background watching.
So what exactly is so disturbing about this film? In order to explain properly, I'm going to have to write a SPOILER. So please only read on ONLY (a) if you have already seen the film, or (b) if you are completely sure you're not going to see it, or (c) if you want to know exactly why it's disturbing and don't mind knowing what happens in order to find out. OK? Here we go:
*******WARNING: ******* SPOILER ******* SPOILER *******
The Disturbing Features:
The film is disturbing largely because the investigator is so shocked by what he discovers that he brutally murders the girl's killers, and gets away with it as well. He literally gets down into the same moral gutter that they are in.
Another disturbing feature is that, in order to make himself angry enough to start killing, he cruelly calls the dead girl's mother on the phone, tells her how her daughter was killed, six years ago. When she naturally breaks down into hysterical sobs, crying out "No, no, no! I love my little girl!" it helps him to start the killing, just as he'd hoped.
Another disturbing feature is that he insensitively calls the widow who started the investigation, and blurts out that her husband did indeed commission the film, and paid for the killing, so the elderly widow, unable to cope with the sudden dreadful news, commits suicide.
And yet another disturbing event is that right at the end, he receives a letter from the girl's mother, emphasising that he did the right thing, in murdering her child's killers. So basically, this film is saying "Forget about the police. They'll do nothing for six years or more. If someone has killed a child, the best thing to do is to take the law into your own hands."
Some people on the internet who are concerned with pro-life issues, have been arguing that the message of the film also carries strong implications that those who shoot abortionists may be doing the right thing, the best thing, after all.